The spectacle of eight MotoGP riders jostling for the lead, at times separated by little over a second, was fantastic for those watching from afar. Being mired in the middle of if, Cal Crutchlow said, was a different matter, however, as the Englishman was beset by issues that prevented him from overtaking those ahead.

Crutchlow was “disappointed” to finish sixth, when his pace – and speed – over the weekend pointed to a possible podium finish. But the 32-year old noted the positives, namely that he was holding his own among the talent he was battling, as well as his RC213V’s competitiveness at yet another track.

Ultimately, Crutchlow found his front tyre overheating when stationed toward the back of the leading fight. Like similar battles this year at Losail and Mugello, his bike’s performance was diminished when in the group and unable to find clean air. Only when he had a clear track ahead could he lower his lap times.

“It wasn’t fun to be in it,” said Crutchlow, the ten points gained for his afternoon’s work pushing him to within 20 points of second in the championship. “I needed to be at the front, where Marc [Marquez] was, or second. It was an epic battle etc etc, but to be in it on a Honda is a disaster, because our bike doesn’t work when we’re in groups.

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“As I told you all weekend, you’ve seen the pace of Marc and he was doing 1m 34.0s with his eyes closed. He’s been doing them alone all weekend, but he nearly got beat. If he hadn’t got to the front, he would have got beat.

“The Honda shakes. Our front tyre overheats too much. And I think you’ve seen today, we’re getting beat by Ducatis on power significantly. Don’t get me wrong, my team did a good job and they prepared a bike that was good enough for the podium. But I never made it happen.

“I made one mistake at turn eight with three laps to go. I got held up with Lorenzo, I got held up with Zarco. At the start of the race I was not willing to push. With that medium front tyre, it was a big risk for us.

“If everyone else is using it, it’s a risk for the Hondas. We decided to run it because the other one [the hard] was even more of a risk on the left hand side. At the start of the race I got passed quite a lot because I was not prepared to push and go down, because of the extra rear grip that we had, with the soft.”

For the second race running, Crutchlow chose to run Michelin’s softest rear tyre. His decision to switch from hard to soft on the grid triggered a host of last-minute changes, with Marquez following suit.

“I’m glad they all copied me at the start of the race and changed tyre,” Crutchlow said of his decision. “All they did was look at morning warm-up and see that I could do a 1m 34.7s with 24 laps on the soft tyre. That’s the problem with having this data now!

“My last two laps were going to be 34s, easy. Even the last lap of the race, I was on for a 34.5. Then I made a big mistake at turn twelve. Lorenzo nearly got me, actually. I was not willing to push at the start.

“I thought, ‘Stay calm, stay in the group.’ It was difficult for us to pass, and when you were in the group, the bike starts to feel really bad. I thought it would spread out, and I’d be able to pick them off one-by-one. The only time it did was when Marc went to the front and he went.

“I passed Valentino. I went into turn eight and lost the rear. In two laps the tyre just completely went. The lap before there was nothing wrong with it. I lost the right hand side of the tyre and that was that. I nearly high-sided off the gas and lost a second – I did a 1m 36-something. I was doing a 34s the lap before.

“A disappointing race for the position, but there were a lot of positives. We were able to use the medium tyre again, as was Marc. We were able to give a good battle.

“I thought today I could have been on the podium – I definitely could have with my pace. You saw how fast I kept catching the guys. When there was a gap of a second ahead I caught it in a lap. It was just quite difficult to pass. I tried my best and sixth it was.”

But soon that disappointment seemed to dissipate, with Crutchlow reserving special praise for Marc Marquez and podium finisher Alex Rins. “Listen, I’m disappointed, but I’m very pleased to be battling with the best guys in the world,” the three-time MotoGP race winner offered. “We always said if we had a bad result this year, it would need to be sixth.

“We were sixth, three seconds off the win with me making a massive mistake. We didn’t put it on the floor. That’s what needs to be done to be there in the championship. I have to start scoring podiums soon.

“In the last few races I’ve wanted podiums and been close to that fight. But we haven’t made it happen. I’m pleased to beat [Johann] Zarco. I’m pleased to beat [Jorge] Lorenzo. They were both really tired. They couldn’t even change direction on the bike. Nice to see. If they think their bikes this year are hard to change direction, wait until they ride what they’re going to ride next year.

"All credit to Marc. He rode a good race. He was at the front but he couldn’t go away. He got passed and nearly got beat. At one point it didn’t look great for him. Then when he got to the front, he could easily go.

“But the ride of the day has to go to Rins. He rode superb with the hard rear tyre. He has very good rear with the Suzuki, so he could manage it. And his rear grip with the hard was probably as good as ours with the soft. A good battle. I enjoyed it. That’s it.”

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